Sunday, October 14, 2007

The price of so-called "freedom"

A colleague of mine asked me to join him as we were both out for a walk during a break at clergy conference last week and he told me all about Naomi Kleine's latest book, Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. (Please click through and read the description, reviews and excerpt.) Today I came across an article in New Statesman that outlines her thesis. Here's how the article starts:

How can Naomi Klein top No Logo, the most influential political polemic of the past 20 years? Her first book forensically studied the bloodstains that have splashed from the developing world’s factories and “export processing zones” on to our cheap designer lives - and it spurred the creation of the anti-globalisation movement. Today, she has produced something even bolder: a major revisionist history of the world that Milton Friedman and the market fundamentalists have built. She takes the central myth of the right - that, since the fall of Soviet tyranny, free elections and free markets have skipped hand in hand together towards the shimmering sunset of history - and shown that it is, simply, a lie.

In fact, human beings consistently and everywhere vote for mixed economies. They want the wealth that markets generate, but they also want them to be interbalanced by strong government action to make life in a market economy liveable. (Even Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were not permitted by their electorates to tinker with anything but the outer fringes of social regulation and the welfare state.) The right has been unable to accept this reality, and unable to defeat it in democratic elections. So in order to achieve their vision of “pure capitalism, cleansed of all interruptions”, they have waited for massive crises - when the population is left reeling and unable to object - to impose their vision.

Klein’s story begins with the market fundamentalists’ showroom: Chile. Milton Friedman, the apostle of pure unfettered capitalism, sent many of his finest students to Chile for years to spread the message that markets must be allowed to work their pristine logic unhindered by government. They persuaded virtually nobody. Their parties were thumpingly defeated, and the democratic socialist Salvador Allende was elected instead. So the CIA backed an anti-democratic coup by the fascist general Augusto Pinochet - and Friedman swiftly stepped in to design “the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere”, as Klein puts it.

And here's how it ends:

Klein’s account of this “disaster capitalism” is written with a perfectly distilled anger, channelled through hard fact. She has indeed surpassed No Logo. Today, this brilliant book should stir a tsunami of shame - and of political action by us to finally stop the shock “therapy”.

Now go read what's in between. You won't regret it.

Now what are we going to do about it?


  1. Ellie, thank you. This is a lot to think about, which I'm doing.

  2. This pretty much scares the crap out of me.

    I have no real idea what we can do to fight the machine. None.

    It feels hopeless and overwhelming to me.

    It feels a bit like A Handmaid's Tale to me.

  3. Yes, I know, Eileen. It feels that way to me, too. But this is what the Church NEEDS to be speaking out on. We're talking about something really evil here. Of course the Church (the institution) is bought and paid for by the machine so it will never happen.

  4. Ellie, I put it on my wish list. I'm already scared to death, but this makes life scarier.

    I agree that this is where the church needs to be in front, taking the lead.


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